When we sent two people to cover the Donald Trump rally in Chicago, we were expecting a piece on the current state of Trump’s campaign. What we got was an oral history of what happened when tensions of the 2016 primaries finally boiled over.
So on Friday night we sent one of our writers and his friend to attend the Trump rally in Chicago. We figured nothing major would happen, after all, political rallies tend to be pretty benign. Let’s just say, things were different this time around.
Here are their impressions from the event.
(Important Note: Shawn and Grant aren’t their real names, they became paranoid due to an incident that happened at the rally on Friday with the police – which they’ll get into – so that’s why they wanted us to change their names to protect their identities. Also some of their observations will probably get both sides upset, so they wanted the hate mail to come at us and not them. So thanks again guys!)
Shawn: Well that was eventful. [Laughs]
Grant: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s a way to put it!
Shawn: It shows how much has changed since we both went to cover a Donald Trump rally last year in central Illinois.
Grant: This one was definitely more… eventful…
Shawn: Question, has your feelings on Trump changed any considering you’re part of the conservative tribe?
(Editor’s Note: Grant identifies himself as a Republican, but has been annoyed with the GOP for the last couple of years due to the party’s stronger stance on social conservative issues; ie gay marriage, abortion rights, ect.)
Grant: Based on what happened Friday night?
Grant: Yeah, my opinion of him got worse! Still not a big fan of Trump and I think he just keeps setting the Republican Party back a couple of election cycles because of his presidential run.
Shawn: Which is funny, because you were one of the first Republicans I knew that genuinely wanted to hear him out when he first announced that he was running.
Grant: Yeah absolutely, I was interested initially in what he had to say. But then he started talking about trade as if time travelers took him from the 1980’s and plopped him here today, which let me know he had no earthly idea what he’s talking about. Plus the Islamaphobia just sealed the deal in absolutely hating the guy.
Grant: Now I have a question for you, how do you feel about Bernie Sanders supporters after attending Friday’s event?
[Shawn just thinking to himself.]
Grant: [Laughs] Hey I told you!
Shawn: Ok listen, I’m not saying they’re as bad as Trump supporters, but there was this core anger from Sanders supporters at the rally on Friday that I was taken aback by.
Grant: Well, you know my feelings on many of the Bernie Sanders supporters already.
(Editor’s Note: Some back story, Grant feels many Bernie Sanders supporters get a pass from the media for being politically aggressive online and aggressive towards conservatives in general.)
Grant: To me, Friday night just proved my point!
Shawn: See I can’t agree with you on this. As you know, many of our friends are Sanders supporters and some of the stuff we saw there on Friday was the result of two groups being antagonized by one another.
Grant: Yeah, it was a literal powder keg inside that arena. Like you could clearly see who was at the Trump rally in earnest and who were there to protest.
Shawn: It definitely was strange how everyone was kind of measuring up the guy next to them at the rally. People were definitely on edge.
Grant: I’ll say this, was extremely shocked to see the number of protesters inside. Of course, you and I disagree on whether protesters should be inside the Trump rally in the first place.
Shawn: Yes absolutely! The protesters have every right to be there. Hell, neither of us support Donald Trump and we were allowed in there. Why wouldn’t the protesters?
Grant: Because we aren’t trying to disrupt the thing that is happening there! It would be like them going to a concert and not letting the band play! Sure I have no problem having protests outside UIC Pavilion, but going inside disrupting someone just because they don’t agree with your world view is just messed up!
Shawn: I’m not going to lie, things were really combative inside where the rally was going to take place. Originally a lot of the Anti-Trump supporters started to let themselves be heard inside. And while there were a few spats here and there initially, it was nothing too crazy. The most flagrant thing that happened was a protester got to the podium and immediately was tackled buy two guys in suits. But then the announcement came. Oh man, that announcement…
(Editor’s Note: The “announcement” they’re talking about is that Donald Trump would not be coming to the rally tonight due to security concerns and it was cancelled.)
Grant: Yeah the announcement just set everyone off! I think what really got Trump supporters upset was the fact that they announced that the Chicago Police Department had told him to cancel due to security concerns, which we hear now isn’t true.
Shawn: Yes! Especially the protesters. They started cheering and screaming stuff like “We Did It” and “No Trump!” It got pretty intense because that’s when the Trump supporters started chanting “USA” and “Trump.” So from what I saw, that’s when the first fights started to happen.
Grant: It started when the event organizers – that’s my guess of who they were anyway – started to clear us out. Also many of the protesters just started to openly antagonize the already pissed-off people that went there to see Trump. Many of them started to snatch signs and hats from Trump supporters.
Shawn: That’s the thing I was actually disappointed in. The protesters were kinda dicks about the whole thing. They kept shouting people down as they were leaving the Pavilion.
Grant: Yeah it was definitely not a good look, but to be fair, the Trump supporters weren’t that great either. I heard my share of racist epithets being slung at the protesters as they were leaving, which just added to the chaos. Actually what really annoyed me was some of them were being thrown out towards you, because you did absolutely nothing to deserve that!
(Editor’s Note: Shawn is of Indian descent.)
Shawn: [Laughs] That’s right! Well, we’ll get to how you really saved my bacon in a little. But yeah… how I described the whole situation is that two groups just kept dousing a fire with gasoline, telling the other that they were “fixing the problem.” Though I have a question for you, why did you think the protesters were Sanders supporters? My guess is because you saw those impromptu Bernie Sanders chants?
Grant: That and they kept screaming stuff to Trump supporters like, “this is what a political revolution looks like!” Also outside the Pavilion, the “Bernie” chants were pretty pervasive among the crowd.
Shawn: I would argue that the people we saw there, might have been Sanders supporters, but they were fringe. I’ve been to Sanders rallies before and they aren’t nearly that hostile. But at Trump rallies, the things being said to me like “I’m from ISIS” or “go back to Iraq” happen more often than I like to admit.
Grant: That might be the case, but you don’t get the ire from Sanders people like I do. When people find out that I’m a conservative, they assume that I’m anti-gay rights, or anti-abortion, or many times just a flat out racist. Which isn’t the case at all! If anything I’m socially liberal, it’s my economic perspective that makes me a conservative. Though they tend not to care.
Shawn: Yeah you’re probably right. That pretty much describes what happened on Friday night. You essentially had two groups clashing over ideas on how they saw America, just screaming at one another. It was as if each group created a caricature, of what the other one was, in their own heads and was battling against that instead of looking at the other person as a human being.
Grant: Yeah it was seriously sad. I personally believe it’s the by-product of modern politics. Whether you agree with the world views of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to deny that they are hitting a nerve with their bases. What we ended up seeing on Friday was all that just basically exposed. It wasn’t pretty.
Shawn: It sure wasn’t!
Grant: Ok, so tell me what happened as we were leaving the Pavilion? I want to hear your side of the story.
Shawn: Oh man! Well, so as we left the Pavilion we saw that the protesters grew in pretty substantial numbers outside. Also it’s important to note that security presence was terrible at the rally itself.
Grant: Yeah it was pretty bad, but outside police presence had increased as we were being escorted out.
Shawn: That’s true. Anyway, you were in front of me as we were making our way out of the Pavilion. I’m not sure if the protesters or the police did this, but they funneled out pathways to get out of the area for Trump supporters through the crowd of protesters. Which, I know hindsight is 20-20 and all, but that was completely idiotic!
Grant: Absolutely! The Trump supporters had to go through the crowd of protesters outside of the event area. What it did is create more problems, by having protesters instigate Trump supporters who were already pissed about having their rally hijacked.
Shawn: Yeah it was nuts outside. I saw a few Trump supporters stop and start screaming at the protesters. There was this one guy who was draped in an American flag that was holding up a sign and started screaming at the crowd of protesters. One of the protesters tore-off his American flag and that’s when the Trump supporter became irate, which lead to a fight breaking out! Where was the procession leading us to anyway?
Grant: Ours were leading up to the UIC parking garage where a good number of Trump supporters were just staying there until the whole thing outside blew over. Some of them were from small towns in Indiana and Wisconsin, they were scared shitless! Where the hell did you go?
Shawn: We got separated when an older Trump supporter behind me started yelling at one of the protesters so he ended up getting between us and that’s how we got separated. He supposedly was a US Veteran that was a supporter of Trump’s and was yelling at a Latino guy, around our age. The Trump supporter was essentially blocking my way forward. It was hard to hear what they were saying to each other, but the general gist of it was; Trump supporter telling protester “I didn’t fight for our country to be hijacked by people like you”, and protester answering back, “you lost racist, go home!”
Shawn: Yeah it was intense! That ended with his wife, or someone related to him, pulling him away from the argument and moving on. I’m actually shocked by the number of Trump supporters that decided to antagonize the protesters, because they were vastly outnumbered outside! And the protesters were pretty antagonistic themselves. If you were a Trump supporter you had to be pretty frightened. So where were you again, while all this was going on?
Grant: So when I got close to the parking garage I noticed you weren’t behind me, so I started to go back looking for you and that’s when I spotted you. Have to say you looked terrified! [Laughs]
Shawn: So on my way to back, an altercation had just ended. A Trump supporter said he had been accosted by a group of supporters and pointed in my general direction. That’s when a police officer grabbed me and pulled me aside. When I said I didn’t do anything, he kind of waved me off and told me to sit there saying “he’ll deal with me in a bit.” Seconds later an actual altercation started a few feet away from me where a Trump supporter and a protester started to go at it. That’s when I felt a pull on my collar. This is how I remember it…
Grant: Yup, that was me spotting you and pulling your collar to get you out of there. To be honest, I have no clue if the police had control of that situation or not, but I didn’t want to find out. I just wanted us to be out of there!
Shawn: Did you know a cop had told me to wait there?
Grant: [Laughs] Had no clue, just saw everything was going to shit, just wanted to reach our car that was near the West Loop ASAP. Which was a long walk, because nothing was near us! Supposedly it started to quiet down after that?
Shawn: Yeah, it never got worse than what we saw. Even though what we ended up seeing was pretty intense.
Grant: What actually surprised me were the conversations that were taking place the next day. Just the aftermath of the whole situation…
Shawn: I know!! Did you see some of the “What Really Happened at the Trump Rally” pieces?
Grant: Ugh, they’re all terrible! They either have the protesters completely without fault or the Trump supporters saying they were being attacked unprovoked. Which nether one is true! The media was behind most of the barricades, so they didn’t get to see most of it. Also those that did, didn’t end too well for them.
Shawn: Yeah, both sides were definitely goading the other. It’s also sad how people were reacting to it on social media. I was expecting more nuanced perspectives of the incident. Instead what we got were reactions divided among political lines. What happened on Friday was political discourse and civility just completely failing. It really was sad. Also what’s worse was Trump’s reaction to all of this!
It is Clinton and Sanders people who disrupted my rally in Chicago – and then they say I must talk to my people. Phony politicians!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2016
Grant: Seriously, what an ass hat! Trump should absolutely condone what happened. He just keeps stoking that fire, because he knows tapping into that anger will get him the GOP nomination. But honestly, Sanders reaction wasn’t much better either.
Shawn: Yeah, I know people who read this site won’t like hearing this, but Sanders should be tougher on what happened. Because while we were exiting the Pavilion, things were definitely thrown in our general direction by protesters, because we got lumped in with the Trump supporters as we exited. Not only that, but there was a lot of venom coming from the protesters outside. If people wanted to see what Donald Trump had created, we got a ringside seat on Friday night!
Grant: Friday was pretty messed up and I think you put it best when you told me, “that’s just what the 2016 primaries have turned into.” At least the tacos we had afterwards were good…
Shawn: True, we might have seen the death of political civility in America, but we’ll always have those tacos.
(Photo Credit: Google Images)